As Interest Wanes, Wikipedia to Drop Its Free Access Program in 2018
The Wikimedia Foundation has announced that free access to Wikipedia will end in 2018, which was part of the its Zero partnership program. The program is a zero-rating scheme, formed in 2018, where many ISPs and network operators offered data access to certain Wikimedia sites at no metered-data cost to the line’s subscriber. It was formed to address high mobile data costs when accessing the service.
In 72 countries where fees prevent users from accessing, Wikipedia had partnership to allow free access to those who otherwise wouldn't. Due to lack of brand awareness, they will end the program. Information is key to developing #bcstt https://t.co/yflJWw4w5i via @techcrunch
— John Reim (@JohnReim2) February 20, 2018
On Friday 16 February 2018, the Wikimedia Foundation announced this in a statement on its website . The foundation said,
“After careful evaluation, the Wikimedia Foundation has decided to discontinue one of its partnership approaches, the Wikipedia Zero program. Wikipedia Zero was created in 2012 to address one barrier to participating in Wikipedia globally: high mobile data costs. Through the program, we partnered with mobile operators to waive mobile data fees for their customers to freely access Wikipedia on mobile devices. Over the course of this year, no additional Wikipedia Zero partnerships will be formed, and the remaining partnerships with mobile operators will expire.”
In the program’s six-year run, the foundation partnered with 97 mobile carriers in 72 countries (Including Nigeria), has succeeded in providing this free access to over 800 million people. According to the foundation, the main reason for the cancellation is that since 2016, there has been a significant drop in the adoption and interest of users in the program. This may be due to the rapidly-shifting mobile industry, as well as changes in mobile data costs.
However, Zero-rating’s relationship with the broader subject of net neutrality has been hotly debated, and some legal bodies have considered it a violation of net neutrality, although some others don’t. With this move to cancel the scheme, the situation would definitely move towards a resolution.
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